Warning: contains spoilers!

I recently saw Woody Allen’s newest movie, the delightful Midnight in Paris. Owen Wilson’s portrayal of Gil, a writer visiting Paris who gets transported nightly to Paris between the World Wars, is charming and engaging.  Wilson is clearly the character that Woody Allen played in his own movies when younger. My enjoyment of the movie was increased greatly by the fact that I had recently read Paula McLain’s excellent A Paris Wife,  historical fiction told from the point of view of Ernest Hemingway’s first wife Hadley. Gil encounters Hemingway and many of his literary and artistic cohorts on his time-traveling nightly journeys. Since I had just read a fictionalized but historically accurate version of the same time period with many of the same characters, I had a much better idea of what the movie was trying to portray. A happy confluence of two of my favorite pastimes: watching movies and reading!

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Year published: 2010

Genre: Nonfiction

Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)

Pros:

  1. Balanced view of a controversial subject
  2. Anecdotal stories are captivating

Cons:

  1. I found the part of the book dealing with the zoo’s director less compelling than the animal and keeper stories that make up the majority of the book.

Warning: following discussion contains spoilers

Zoo Story is a very readable story about the evolution of Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo. The author does a great job of portraying the contradiction inherent in any zoo’s mission: balancing conservation efforts against running an entertainment venue. The central story at the beginning of the book is illustrative. Two nature reserves in Swaziland have too many elephants. Their population density in the parks is causing massive deforestation. Is it better that they be “culled” (i.e. killed), or sold to American zoos? How humane is it to expose intelligent elephants to experiences they have no hope of understanding such as a trans-Atlantic flight? The elephants’ story is just one aspect of the animal tales in this book. I felt like reading the stories of these animals gave me an insight into their day-to-day living in captivity like nothing I had ever read before.

Posted by: terrytek | July 31, 2011

Do you finish every book you start?

Until a few years ago, I did finish every book I started, even if I didn’t like the book. I’d slog through no matter what. Then I decided that life was too short to waste time reading books I that didn’t interest me, and besides, I spent too much time reading books that I wanted to read without wasting time on books that I wasn’t enjoying. What about you?

Posted by: terrytek | June 16, 2011

Room by Emma Donoghue

Year published: 2011

Genre: Contemporary fiction

Rating: 5 (out of 5)

Pros:

  1. Highly unique story
  2. Point-of-view is interesting and voiced consistently

Cons:

  1. Some people I know have read this book and found the subject matter distasteful. For example, my 20-yr. old son said he thought the book was “well done but a little creepy”!

Warning: following discussion contains spoilers

 
Room is the story of five-year-old Jack and his mother, who live in the same “room” 24 hours a day. It is told from Jack’s point of view, and the author does a very good job of using Jack’s voice (although I would have to say, Jack is a pretty intelligent five-year-old to be able to express himself the way that he does in this book). As the book goes on, we find out why this mother and child are confined. I don’t want to give everything away, but I think the parts of the story where we find out how Jack and his mother got in this situation are as interesting as the parts where they are in Room. I’ve never read a book quite like this, and I found it to be truly original and compelling.

Posted by: terrytek | June 7, 2011

Long Drive Home by Will Allison

Year published: 2011

Genre: Contemporary fiction

Rating: 4 (out of 5)

Pros:

  1. Written about a momentary event that changes people’s lives; I like that kind of story
  2. Fatherhood/family dialog rings true
  3. Well-paced drama

Cons:

  1. Not all the decisions made by the characters seem realistic to me (more about this below)

Warning: following discussion contains spoilers, although not as many as most reviews I’ve read 🙂

If I ever wrote a novel, it would be about a sudden event that takes place and changes people’s lives, because I have always enjoyed reading those types of books. Long Drive Home is such a story. Glen is married with a six-year-old daughter, Sara. While driving her home from school one day, a series of events occurs that leads Glen to make a very poor decision that leads to another person’s death. His decision is not the decision I referred to above in Cons #1;  the decisions I am referring to are those of Glen’s wife Liz. I understand that not every spouse reacts with complete support every time there is adversity. However, Glen’s wife’s reaction is an almost instant desire to separate for the sole purpose of protecting her assets. What’s that saying–with friends like that, who needs enemies? Part of the explanation that the author gives for Liz’ reaction is that her dad was a lawyer and she is the main breadwinner of the family. That reasoning is a bit too contrived for my taste.

I think that Will Allison does a good job of revealing what Glen is going through in making his initial decision to not inform the police of his role in the accident, and Glen’s subsequent reactions to the unfolding investigation. The whole incident is complicated by the fact that Sara, as a passenger in Glen’s car, is a witness to the accident. The accident occurs in Glen’s neighborhood, and he doesn’t know if any of his neighbors or any passers-by have witnessed the accident either.

This story is an interesting case about lying. When you lie, how much of it is what you actually say that is a lie, and how much of it is what you don’t say?

Posted by: terrytek | May 27, 2011

Kindle vs. traditional books

I was fortunate enough to be gifted a Kindle about six months ago. I do use it quite a bit, but continue to read traditional books as well.

There are several other dedicated e-readers out there (Nook, Sony e-reader to name a few), but I can’t speak about them since I don’t have experience with them.

Things I like about the Kindle:

1) Now that I’m, uh, not 30 anymore 😉 my eyes appreciate that the font size on the Kindle can be adjusted. I have progressive bifocals, and when I lie in bed to read I don’t look through the reading part of my lenses, so being able to enlarge the print is very nice.

2) You can carry an entire library with you for about the same size as and less weight than one hardcover book. Great when traveling.

3) You can read the Kindle with one hand. My dog appreciates no interruption in her petting 😉

4) You can immediately look up a word in the onboard dictionary by highlighting it. You can also make notes and highlight passages.

5) You can download free samples of books or content that you find interesting to see if you would like to purchase the content.

6) You can read the no-glare screen even in bright sunlight.

7) If you don’t leave the wireless connection on all the time, the Kindle will hold its charge for weeks, even with daily use.

Things I don’t like about the Kindle:

1) Currently, you cannot borrow e-books for the Kindle (well, you can if you know how, but it’s not easy). You also cannot lend books that you have purchased to another Kindle user. I read a lot, and borrow pretty extensively from the library, so not being able to borrow (or lend) is huge for me…having said that, though, the e-books that my library system offers are not the “hot off the press” titles. There is certainly current content, but it’s not what might be found in the 14-day fiction section of my local print library. Amazon has said the ability to borrow e-books is coming for the Kindle “soon”. Also, there are books that you can purchase that can supposedly be lent to other people, but this is left up to the discretion of the publisher and I have yet to purchase one thing for which lending is enabled.

2) There is free content for the Kindle, for example, many “classics” have been digitized and are free, but to read most current literature requires that you buy the book (or magazine or newspaper). I can sometimes go through several books a week, so buying everything I read would quickly get prohibitive.

3) Diagrams and maps do not show up very well on the Kindle. You can enlarge the image, but the images I’ve seen aren’t in high-enough definition to be any better when they’re bigger. This means that reading, for example, a computer reference book where there are lots of screenshots doesn’t work very well.

4) Photos show up fine on the Kindle, but there is no color Kindle yet (I know that there are some e-readers that do come in color).

5) And then there’s that intangible feeling of a real book in your hands…however, the longer I have the Kindle, the less holding a heavy 400-page hardcover book appeals to me.

What about you? Do you have a Kindle or other e-reader? Please share your experiences!

Posted by: terrytek | May 25, 2011

After You by Julie Buxbaum

Year published: 2009
Genre: Contemporary fiction, “chick lit”
Rating: 4 (out of 5)
Pros:

  1. Well-written
  2. Fully developed characters
  3. Interesting premise

Cons:

  1. Main plot device is a bit unrealistic

(Warning: following discussion contains spoilers)
I enjoyed this book a lot, because I thought the idea of stepping into someone else’s life was interesting. Ellie is an American woman whose best friend Lucy, an American living in London with her British family, is murdered. Ellie goes to England to help take care of Lucy’s daughter Sophie, who is also Ellie’s goddaughter. She stays in Lucy’s house with Sophie and Lucy’s husband, Greg.
The plot device that I referred to as “a bit unrealistic” under “Cons” is the fact that Lucy basically leaves her entire life behind in the US to stay for an extended time in the UK. First of all, she’s married–even though her marriage is clearly having problems, I don’t think too many people would leave their spouses for such an extended period. She also has a job! She is a college professor. Conveniently, the murder seems to occur at the beginning of a summer, so she has some time where she can be away from her job, but it’s a little vague what she does after that. The fact that she would leave both her husband and job behind just struck me as “not too likely”. Anyway, I digress….
Ellie has to deal with the fact that Sophie was a witness to her mother’s murder and all that that entails. She also has to deal with a grieving widower. Thank you to the author for not having Ellie and Greg fall for each other or even have a romantic relationship; that would have been just too cliched. There are interesting secondary characters in the novel, such as the members of Ellie’s family.
Of course, even people who seem to have a perfect life from the outside rarely have a perfect life. Ellie finds out that there was a lot more going on in Lucy’s life than Lucy had let on to her, even though Ellie and Lucy were the closest of friends.
This book is also an homage to Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic children’s book The Secret Garden. I have not read that book, but intend to read it now.

Posted by: terrytek | May 25, 2011

Welcome to “The Addicted Reader”…

Hello! My name is Terese, and I have been an addicted reader since I was four years old. I seem to always have a book (or more recently, a Kindle) close at hand, and read to the exclusion of other things I should be doing like cleaning, cooking, exercising, what have you.
Even though I am an avid reader, I tend not to like reading book reviews because they give away too much of the plot. My reviews will be a bit different. In the top part of the review, I will give a rating and pros and cons without giving too much away. This will be followed by a more detailed discussion in which there probably will be spoilers, but if you’re like me, you may not want to read that part until after you have read the book.
I hope you will discuss books and reading-related issues with me, and if you are willing to write a review of a book that you’ve read in the above format, I will consider making your review into a post and, of course, crediting you by first name.

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